Prayer: A Litany of Humility

James Tissot - Jesus Ministered to by Angels

Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val by Charles Belmonten in Handbook of Prayers (Manila: Studium Theologiae Foundation, 1986). 

Praying from Where You Are: Letting Our Experiences and Emotions Fuel Our Prayers

2014-11-13 13.14.09Many of us struggle with prayer. We struggle with what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and so much more. One of the most common concerns we face with prayer is whether it is okay to simply bring who we are from right where we are to God. Another way to say it is: can I be real with God in prayer?

The answer to this question is definitive: yes.

In prayer, it is always good to take our cues from what we find in Scripture. With this question, I would encourage us to take our cues from the Psalms and from Jesus. The Psalms are filled with expressions of the full range of emotions and human experience. Consider just a few examples of this:

  • agony (Psalm 22)
  • isolation (27:10)
  • joy (28:7)
  • repentance (51)
  • suffering (55:3)
  • yearning (63:1)
  • rejection (85:5)
  • abounding praise (150)

All 150 psalms reflect the range of human emotion and experience in ways that are both affirming and instructive.

Jesus also reflects a range of emotions in prayer. Whether it is his angst before Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:35) or his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before the Cross (Luke 22:39-44), Jesus prays from the reality of His experience.

While we can argue that both writers of the Psalms and Jesus do not let their emotions or experiences control them, at the same time they allow their emotions and experiences to be a valid starting point and fuel for their prayers.

As I often like to say, there is nothing you can throw at God that He cannot handle. So, let us bring our real selves in the real presence of God in prayer. Do not hold back, but allow your emotions and experiences to lead you beyond yourself and into the transforming presence of the God who is there.

Five Quotations on Prayer

Power in Prayer Series Gfx_App Square

This past weekend, I concluded a preaching series at Eastbrook Church called “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” Through the series, I shared quotations on prayer throughout the series, and several people asked if I could share them. There were a few that I had in my notes that I never mentioned, so here they all are.

 

Baron Friedrich von Hugel: “The decisive preparation for prayer lies not in the prayer itself, but in the life prior to the prayer.”[1]

John Wesley: “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”[2]

John Stott: “So, the major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.”[3]

Richard Foster: “The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son.” [4]

Dallas Willard: “Prayer is, above all, a means of forming character.”[5]


[1] Baron Friedrich von Hugel, The Life of Prayer, 30.

[2] In Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, rev. ed. (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1988), 34.

[3] John R. W. Stott, Sermon: “Growth in the Prayer Life,” 20 August 1989.

[4] Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), 57.

[5] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: Harper Collins, 1998), 250.

 

A Prayer of Irenaeus of Lyon

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I appeal to you, Lord, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob and Israel, You the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Infinitely merciful as You are, it is Your will that we should learn to know You. You made heaven and earth, You rule supreme over all that is. You are the true, the only God; there is no other god above You.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ…and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, grant that all who read what I have written here may know You, because You alone are God; let them draw strength from You; keep them from all teaching that is heretical, irreligious or godless.

By Irenaeus of Lyon, 2nd century theologian and Bishop of Lyon

Old Camel Knees: a brief reflection on the remarkable prayer life of James the Just

James_the_Just_(Novgorod,_16_c.)The fourth-century church historian, Eusebius, relates a story gathered from the lost works of Hegesippus during the second century about James “the Just,” who likely wrote the epistle of James and was the earthly brother of Jesus. In the midst of outlining the persecution of the church in his Ecclesiastical History , Eusebius details the death of James in Book II, Ch. XXIII:

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

There is so much we could discuss here, but today I merely want to draw attention to point (6) above, which highlights James’ ongoing life of prayer, specifically his worship of God and petitions for forgiveness on behalf of others. His dedication to prayer is such that his physical body reflected it: “his knees became hard like those of a camel.” It is because of this phrase that James is often referred to as “camel knees.”

The idea of praying on our knees is mentioned frequently in Scripture (Psalm 95:6; Daniel 6:10; Luke 5:8; Ephesians 3:14). Praying on our knees conveys humility – an appropriate sense of who we are – and awe – an appropriate sense of who God is. Getting down on our knees tells us in a very tangible way – through the posture of our bodies – that something different is occurring in our experience that requires something different from our bodies. As one commentator writes, kneeling in prayer communicates something vitally important: “We recognize that God is everything for us and that without his merciful love, we are, literally, nothing.”

These days many of us, especially those within evangelical traditions, rarely get on our knees in prayer. In fact, it is so out of the ordinary that when I recently invited our church community to kneel, I had to take extra time to set it up ahead of time. Those in what would described as traditional churches likely find it more common to descend to a kneeler each week for the confessional prayer. Regardless of our worship tradition, I would like to suggest that all of us could learn quite a lot from the Apostle James in his example of dedicated, humble prayer through appropriate kneeling.

However, let me take it a step further, and say that pastors and ministers of all sorts should take a cue on prayer from “Old Camel Knees.” It would be an invaluable breakthrough in ministry practice if all of us serving in ministry left a legacy like James of dedication in prayerful worship of God and intercession before God on behalf of our people. May God give us grace that our bodies would be marked by our dedication in prayer.